Facebook’s ‘mutual-friends’ feature threat to user privacy, security controls
The mutual-friends feature on social networking sites such as Facebook creates myriad security risks for the users and raises privacy concerns, a new study has revealed.
The study conducted by University of Pittsburgh shows that even though users can tailor their privacy settings, hackers can still find private information through mutual-friends features.
According to Pitt’s School of Information Sciences professor James Joshi, the mutual-friends features are not in accordance with the privacy setting designs and even a minor privacy breach can have a significant impact on the huge user base in such systems.
Examining different types of attacks on social network users using an offline Facebook dataset containing 63,731 users from the New Orleans regional network, the researchers have found that an attacker identified more than 60 percent of a target’s private friends in the ‘mutual-friend based attack.
Joshi said that being able to see mutual friends may allow one to find out important and private social connections of a targeted user, adding that an attacker can infer such information as political affiliations or private information that could be socially embarrassing.
Stating that the information can also be used to create false identities that appear even more authentic than the actual user, Joshi emphasized the need for better privacy-protection settings to mitigate the problem but those that can also be easily navigated by users.